Based upon a one note ‘classic’ sci-fi film from an era where one note was plenty, the 2008 update strips away anything original and emerges with a film as charismatic as the dispassionate central figure played by a toned down Keanu Reeves.
Reeves is Klaatu, an alien from an unknown planet who arrives in a giant beautiful blue orb to a planet understandably fearful and full of trepidation as to his intent.
Don’t worry, after an hour or so of this drudgery you’ll be begging for Klaatu to drag out a superweapon and take us away from the interminable blandness.
There is a lot of movement in these early scenes as scientists, engineers and world leaders are summoned for crisis meetings to discuss the purpose of this arrival, but no action. Among the scientists is Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), whose primary role is to pretend she gives two shits about this pasty intruder and also that her annoying movie stepson (Jaden Smith) isn’t an excruciating brat.
The fact that for 30 minutes the film pretends we don’t know an alien life form is soon to emerge is insulting to the audience, the fact that the remaining 70 minutes can’t find other signs of life is downright pathetic.
Klaatu sleepwalks around in the initial stages, absorbing all around him while authorities in all industries and disciplines lose their minds and over-react to buggery. His large ‘Iron Giant’ sentry robot remains with the ship – for reasons unknown given the ship was apparently merely a gas cloud of sorts. But Klaatu hooks up with Helen and the kid and off they go on a pilgrimage to try to discover something…
No dice, this film should be renamed ‘The Two Hours my Pulse Stood Still’.
So the mismatched trio wander around doing nothing of note. The big robot stands still, occasionally sparking to life only to swat down the missiles and attacks of the moronic armed forces who can’t leave well enough alone. And the politicians prove once again that movie politicians are somehow even dumber than their real life counterparts.
In fact the film is a lot like Jodie Foster’s Contact from the mid 90s, and where I thought that film was dull and over-long, I must at least credit it for being a hell of a lot better than this yawner.
I haven’t seen the original 50s film that is often hailed as a pioneering sci-fi masterpiece, so I can’t say how faithful this is to that film. What I can say with certainty is that this film won’t be similarly lauded in six decades to come, which should be obvious given that it is already irrelevant only a few years after its unfortunate release to universal shrugs.
Final Rating – 4 / 10. I’ve definitely hated films more than The Day the Earth Stood Still (Gulliver’s Travels). I can’t say I’ve ever been as bored as I was by this film.